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First major rework of LEED since 2005

by Gerhard Hope on Mar 16, 2009

Pearl Dubai chairman Abdul Majeed Al Fahim has revealed that the main towers of Dubai Pearl would be constructed to LEED Gold standard
Pearl Dubai chairman Abdul Majeed Al Fahim has revealed that the main towers of Dubai Pearl would be constructed to LEED Gold standard

In January 2009, the US Green Building Council (USGBC) installed the third-generation version of its well-known green building performance rating and certification system, Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED). This latest system results from over four years of technical research, reviews of many actual LEED-certified projects, and the advisory activities of hundreds of technical experts.

The 2009 revisions are comprehensive, and may reduce building environmental impacts by 10% on LEED-certified projects, focusing mainly on further reductions in energy waste and enhanced water conservation. This is the first major rework of LEED since 2005, and represents a major upgrade and harmonisation of technical criteria.

The USGBC’s review of the LEED green building rating system is a multi-faceted initiative to streamline and create capacity for LEED project execution, documentation and certification. This initiative is referred to as LEED Version 3 (commonly known LEED v3). In order to remain relevant in a rapidly changing market, technology must evolve. LEED, as a market transformation instrument, is no different.

Suite of rating systems

The suite of LEED green building rating systems has enjoyed remarkable and unprecedented growth as the building industry has sought to engage with its concepts and technical criteria. LEED has been an incontrovertible success as a tool to promote market transformation and recognise buildings with exemplary green pedigrees. As of 1 May 2008, +3.5 billion square feet of building projects (+10,000 individual projects) have registered intent to seek LEED certification, with dozens more signing up every day.

LEED’s rapid success presents its stewards, the USGBC membership, with an opportunity to advance the system to ensure that future buildings certified under its criteria are even greener than the stock in the pipeline to date. LEED has always existed and enjoyed unparalleled success, partly due to its ability to operate in the dynamic tension between the pursuit of environmental excellence and the business realities of the building industry.

While the urgency of pending environmental crises that face the coming generations weighs heavily on all of us, there is recognition that LEED cannot completely forsake market uptake for environmental priorities. Issues like global climate change may be the most urgent and dire social equity issues that we have ever faced, and they demand immediate, effective action. In spite of this knowledge, we also acknowledge that no transformation is catalysed if the bar set by LEED is unachievable in the context of existing technological and economic boundaries.

Optimal balance

Continuing to strike the optimal balance between market uptake and technical advancement is one of the driving forces behind the LEED 2009 work. Additionally, much has been invested in the current LEED system and, as a direct result, a concerted effort has been made to ensure that LEED 2009 capitalises on the existing market momentum.


Consequently, the LEED Steering Committee has created a LEED structure that will be familiar to those versed in the current LEED rating systems. Most of the structural and technical changes incorporated into LEED 2009 were designed to create a LEED rating system that can be part of a continuous improvement cycle.

LEED 2009 is not a ‘tear down and rebuild’ of the LEED that exists in the market, but rather a reorganisation of the existing LEED rating systems, along with several key advancements. LEED alignment provides a continuous improvement structure that will enable the USGBC to develop LEED in a predictable way. Using a cycle that is based principally on the familiar method by which building codes are developed, LEED will evolve on a set schedule.

However, LEED is not a building code, and thus policy mechanisms will be retained to allow for LEED to react to the rapidly-changing green building industry – including, but not limited to, administrative credit interpretations and the establishment of performance/intent equivalent alternative compliance paths to existing LEED prerequisites/credits.

Biggest change

Arguably the biggest change to LEED 2009 is the re-weighting/point re-allocation of LEED credits. The process used to evaluate the environmental and human benefit of each LEED credit is complicated by the sophisticated level of research and analysis involved. LEED 2009 goes a step further by weighting LEED according to a logical, transparent framework that incorporates the best available science.

 The explicit weightings in the revised LEED rating system scorecards represent the culmination of a weightings exercise that utilised two existing tools (modified for use by USGBC) in conjunction with exhaustive research, policy guidance from the LEED Steering Committee, and a new tool developed to synthesise large quantities of relevant information.

As a first step, incentives will be provided through LEED innovation and design style bonus points that will add value to those credits that are considered most important for defined regions. These points will be counted in the same way as LEED ID points, and are not included in the certification threshold calculations (ID and regional points count towards a project’s certification tally, but they are not ‘base’ points on which certified, silver, gold and platinum thresholds are established). Project teams may select bonus points from a list of eligible credits based on the project’s location.

The LEED Steering Committee is currently collaborating with regional councils and chapters to create the list of eligible credits. As defined by these regional councils and chapters, select credits from the available list will be eligible for bonus points in appropriate sub-regions.